Rowland: 'I was the only one who could challenge Charles Leclerc'

Rowland: 'I was the only one who could challenge Charles Leclerc'

12-01-2023 20:00 Last update: 13-01-2023 15:44

After a long winter break, Formula E returns this weekend. With the new generation of cars, it remains to be seen where the balance of power will lie. For Oliver Rowland, it will be a matter of waiting to see where he and his team stand. GPblog spoke exclusively to the Brit ahead of the Mexico E-Prix.

Sometimes you just need that one bit of luck where everything falls your way for a moment. Had it fallen slightly differently, Rowland might not have been preparing for the first E-Prix of the season this weekend with Mahindra Racing, but instead preparing for another season in Formula 1.

"Realistically, I was second in F2. I finished second in the championship and I was disqualified in the last race for 0.1mm of the plank. I was disqualified also three times during the season. For me, I was up there with Charles [Leclerc] and the really only one that could challenge him."

No chance

Leclerc then progressed to Formula 1, something George Russell, Lando Norris and Alexander Albon also did a year later. Rowland never got the chance in the king class of motorsport.

"Those guys are good, but I have no doubt I could've fought against them pretty well. Albon was there the year I was there as well. I guess it's just the right place and right time. Some of those things require a bit of luck and it wasn't meant to be. I am happy with the way things are at the moment."

In Formula E, Rowland has now made a name for himself. He has one win to his name, in 2020 in Berlin. In the coronavirus-affected year, Rowland finished fifth in the championship. In subsequent years, he couldn't advance further than 14th. In terms of talent, Rowland believes, that number does not do him justice. "Throughout my career, I was pretty successful in the World Endurance Series and F2. I was close to beating Leclerc who was in a Prema when I was in F2."

"Then went to Nissan as a rookie, had a very good first season scoring three poles, should've won races but that was more rookie mistakes than anything else. Then spent another two seasons there when we were quite heavily compromised. Over the two years, we fell further and further behind. Then coming here (Mahindra) was a new challenge. I knew last year was always going to be difficult. The plan was to have a fresh start and project for Gen 3. I am sure there is more to come. I am sure the time will come when I have the package to win races and fight for the championship."

The new season

So perhaps this season, a year when the balance of power may change. Making an assessment of where everyone stands is something Rowland finds difficult. At least during testing at Valencia, things looked good in terms of speed.

"Based on Valencia and we can score some decent points. But then again, before we went to Valencia, we were worried to be last. So it's very difficult to know you don't know if everybody was full gas in Valencia or people were maybe sandbagging a little bit, certainly, the DS look quick and maybe a little bit out of reach for us, but I think everybody else was within reach. We have no reliability issues, then there's the possibility to be around the top five, but at the same time, we know how competitive Formula E is."

Not only will Rowland have to deal with new cars, but also with a different teammate. Lucas di Grassi is a household name in Formula E. "Last year with Alexander Sims it was very relaxed. He was a pretty interesting character. I think having Lucas is a completely different dynamic compared to Sims. He pushes hard, has a lot of good ideas. For me, that's good. I now have a reference in one of the most successful guys in this championship."